Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Challenge Accepted [Read Harder Challenge- My Recommendations]

How I Met Your Mother reference, anyone? 

After first hearing about it on Lisa's blog (and now seeing it on several others), I've decided I am going to participate in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge this year. Basically, you read 24 books in 24 different categories. I figure it will be easy since many of the people I take book recommendations from will be doing it too :) Plus it might force me to read a few things that I wouldn't have before. I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I've already read that fit into the categories, in case you are looking for some ideas. Even if you aren't doing the challenge, who doesn't love a good book recommendation? 

I definitely don't have one for every category, but at the end of this year, I will! 

Book that takes place in Asia: Shanghai Girls, The Pearl that Broke It's Shell

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture: Rabbit Proof Fence

 Rabbitproof

A young adult novel: Under the Blood Red Sun, Eleanor and Park, Divergent, Monster, Wonder (I could go on…)

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An audiobook: Yes Please (I actually read this but I think the audio book is the way to go for this one)

A collection of poetry: Brown Girl Dreaming (also could be an award winning book of the last decade)

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A book that was originally published in another language: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (also it's young adult!)

Of course, you can use ALL of these books as a book someone has recommended to you. 

If you are participating in the challenge (or even if you are not), what are some books you either recommend or plan to read? Give me some ideas :) 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

10 Favorite Books of 2014

I'm a little behind on end of 2014 posts. I wrote this one while in Florida but for some reason it did not want to post from my iPad so I had to redo it, with far less explanations. I suppose that since I choose my job based on my love for teaching kids to read, it seems obvious that I love reading. I was worried that my transition into being a mom would mean that I wouldn't have as much time to read. I set my goal for 2014 low (20 books originally) and blew it out of the water… I think I read my 20th book in early April. In 2014 reading saved me from the monotony of nursing a new born and the challenge of middle of the night wakings. It was the one and only hobby I faithfully maintained this year. It has been such a great joy to get to read to Max and have him choose his own favorite books already. It always continues to be a joy to share great books with my students and teach them how to read. 

Here are some of my favorite reads from the year, in no particular order (though I do think #1 was my top favorite). Please share your favorite reads in 2014 in the comments :) 

#1

2014books 6

(Just read it. So good.)

#2

2014books 4

#3

2014books 1

#4

2014books 2

#5

2014books 3

#6

2014books 10

#7

2014books 9

#8

2014books 8

#9-

2014books 11

#10-

2014books 12

Monday, January 5, 2015

Top 10 in 2014

I'm a little late, but I didn't want to skip a Top Moments of 2014 post. I'm normally not without words, but when I try to describe the past year, I can't figure out how to do it. Can I just say it had some wonderful moments and some really hard moments? Here are some of my favorites: 

*As always, if the photo looks professional, you can thank Caroline. 

Meeting Max. You knew that was coming right? 

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Introducing Max to the many, many important people in his life. He has many family members and friends that love him :) We got so many visits, and we met up with so many people. It was fun!

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Celebrating my 30th Birthday on a boat in Boston Harbor. We also celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary on a boat in Boston Harbor, which was also a top moment. Let's just say, drinking beer on boats in Boston Harbor? 

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Mini Speed Boats also in Boston Harbor. There is a boat theme in my favorite things from this year. 

 

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Zac Brown Concert at Fenway Park

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Nightly Walks with Eric and Max. Or daily, or multiple times a day… ha ha. I also loved nightly story time. There is beauty in the routine. 

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Introducing Max to the many things and places we love. From our many Cape Cod adventures, to swimming lessons, to travel, to…everything really. 

 

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Jet skiing with dolphins in Florida. There was a LOT challenging about this trip… but I think it was probably all worth it for this 2 hour period. 

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The Kindergarten Kiddos. My thoughts on my job in 2014 were complicated. I guess you could say I had a love/hate relationship with it. It frustrated me. It saved my sanity. But my love for the kiddos did not change (though they also sometimes frustrate me, ha). I loved how invested they became in Max- they would interrupt my lessons to ask how he was doing. They drew him pictures and wrote him notes. Plus, they just continued to be 5 and 6. They told funny stories, they asked irrelevant questions. One struggled with his letters at the beginning of the year and then was a good sport when I forced him to do daily letter activities (several per day) until he learned all of them (in 1 month, amazing!) Another worked on writing his number 5 during play time. One said to me today, "I waited ALL vacation to give you this picture I made you. I missed school SO MUCH!" Love. 

Reading. I owe you guys a post of my favorite books from 2014. I read a lot more than I expected to this year and reading seriously kept me sane as I nursed for 1 billion hours and tried to fall back to sleep after middle of the night wakings. I might have gone a little crazy without my books! 

2014 was a good year, but I'm looking forward to an even better 2015! :) 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Extra Stuff

For the past almost two years now, I've been on a slow mission to rid myself of extra stuff. I just taught my kindergartners the meaning of the word "extra" last week in the context of teen numbers, and how they are one group of 10, plus some "extra." Extra is the stuff beyond what we need to fill ourselves up. I use need lightly. I don't need my Kindle Paperwhite like I need food, but I use it on a daily basis. Max does not need his Little Tikes office/house thing that he borrowed from his BFF, but he plays with it every day and is learning how to climb, sort shapes, and open and close things with it. Stuff is inevitable, and that's okay.
I will never be a minimalist. I will read minimalist blogs, listen to their podcasts and at times (when I don't feel like cleaning and organizing)I will wish I was a minimalist. But I will never be one. That will not stop me from getting rid of stuff whenever possible. This is not a post about how to be a minimalist, you can find more about that from people much better at it than me. This is just what I have done so far. Maybe it will give you an idea or some motivation :)
I've read some books: 7- An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Simplicity Parenting
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I've read some blogs: The Art of Simple, Zen Habits, Be More With Less, and Our Little Apartment (Ashley wrote a great post about how to decide what to get rid of. I love her concept of "would I replace this item if it was lost?" If the answer is no, get rid of it.)
I've listened to some podcasts: The Art of Simple and Minimalism for the Rest of Us
I've gotten rid of stuff: In the past, I donated almost exclusively to Goodwill. But now, I have so many things I do with my stuff I am getting rid of. I still donate quite a bit, but I also learned about the many "Yard Sale" groups on Facebook where you can post items. I'm a member of an awesome "closet sharers" group for kids clothes/items. I have already sold multiple items on there. I also love to sell back my clothes (I haven't done any of Max's yet because we are not sure what our future plans for kids are). My favorite company is Twice. I've written about them before and I continue to think this is the best company for selling back clothes. I usually get $50-$80 back for a large bag of clothes and it honestly could NOT be any easier. I've also used Thred Up which is good for selling back cheaper quality brands (they take more brands and actually they take kids clothes too)- I only got $11 back when I sold to them, but most of the time I'd take no money to just get this stuff out of my house!
I've tried to lower the amount of stuff coming in: I've done a "No Buy November." I was a crazy researcher about baby stuff and tried not to get too much. Of course, this is relative, some people would say I have WAY more than necessary but I have borrowed a lot and given away or sold anything we didn't use. We have switched to event gifts with many family members. Overall, I've just looked more critically at items coming into the house and tried to not buy things that I didn't really love/wouldn't use a lot.
My motivation for doing all this is that I hate cleaning but I like to live in a reasonably clean space. My mom says everyone hates cleaning, but I think I hate it even more than the average person. I also hate not knowing where something is when I want it. I hate when thinking about stuff and where it is or where I'm going to put it occupies my precious time.
I still have a long way to go. In 2015 I want to get better at the 1 in, 1 out rule (I never do this and I need to). But I've started. I've started thinking more critically about what I really want to do with my space and what I want in it. For a girl who used to hoard an absurd amount of stuff under her bed as a child, this is a start :)
How do you keep clutter under control?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Max: 11 Months

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful day :) I can't believe I haven't posted since December 1st. Where did this month go? I actually started a bunch of posts but never had a chance to actually finish and post them. The month of December is a crazy one for a teacher… well probably for everyone. I'm just thankful Max didn't really understand the concept of Christmas this year so I didn't have to deal with a crazy kid at home and at school. 

Max turned 11 months on the 17th, which means he is very very close to being 1 year old. I can't believe it! This time of the year last year was extremely stressful and I'm just so thankful to be where I am now rather than back then. 

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Technically, Max is still a baby for a few more weeks, though he feels more and more like a kid every day. He loves to eat, there is really nothing he won't eat. He doesn't discriminate between food he can eat himself and food that is fed to him (though he may try to grab the spoon). If I am feeding him but he is paying attention to something else (his dad being silly), he will look straight at Eric but open his mouth for the food I'm about to put in. 

He loves to move and only rarely lets us hold him. Even when he is nursing, he is typically moving all over the place kicking and hitting me at the same time. He will sometimes get himself in a sitting position and try to nurse that way. He wants to be down and crawling around as much as possible. He can be playing with his toys in his play area one second and then ten seconds later be halfway up the stairs. He continues to use his unique crawl, but he is SO fast with it. When he is upstairs, he loves to crawl into the treadmill room and go up on the treadmill. I guess he understands that the treadmill is for exercise because he likes to crawl back and forth on it as quickly as he can. 

His other favorite thing upstairs is his dad's guitar. He quickly found it in the closet and will sit for a long period of time just strumming on the guitar listening to the music it makes. Not even his most ADD toys with flashing lights and music can compare to the entertainment of the guitar. 

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He had a new toy this month, both at our house and my parents, the Christmas tree (photo above from my parent's house). When we first put up the tree, he was actually kind of scared of it. He would sit a few feet away and kind of whine at the tree. Once he became comfortable enough to explore it, he liked to touch some of the lower ornaments and the lights. But overall I was surprised at the number of times that he crawled right by the tree without paying too much attention to it. 

Max loves dogs. While we try not to let any dogs TOO close, he has been able to see my brother's dog and Eric's parent's dog for his whole life (all 11 months of it, ha ha). He still thinks dogs are amusing and he is not scared of them at all. He is also obsessed with his "lovey" which is a doggie blanket with tags hanging off of it (made by the Taggies brand). He sleeps with his doggie every night and at every nap. He loves to cuddle with it and suck on it while he falls asleep. 

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Max's new skills include clapping and standing up. He loves to clap or hold our hands to make us clap. I may be creating a baby who believes someone will clap for him every time he does the most minor thing. Oops. He can also stand up without holding on, and I think he will be taking more than a step or two in the very near future. Right now he is a bit hesitant about it, so he usually sits down once he realizes he is actually standing. 

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On the Christmas front, Max did great with the Christmas events. We had quite a few people at our house on Christmas Eve and he was quite happy about it. On Christmas Day, he took an epically long nap, allowing his mom and dad to eat Christmas dinner in peace. He was not at all interested in opening presents, but he didn't mind playing with them! Not surprisingly, he was spoiled by his family members and friends. It was refreshing and funny to see that even with all the new toys he received, he still wanted to play most with his play office/house that he borrowed from his best friend Teddy. When we tried to get him to open his presents, all he really wanted was to read his favorite book, Little Blue Truck. 

He loves to "talk" and says Dada, Daddy and Baby frequently. He has started to throw in a Mum every once in awhile just to make sure he still gets fed (kidding). He makes the P sound as well, which we take to mean Pops. It's hard to tell if he knows the meaning of these words or not. Sometimes I think he definitely does, like when he crawls up the stairs on weekend mornings and heads right for the door that he knows his dad is sleeping behind, all the while saying "Dada, Dada, Dada." But then other times he is yelling "BABY BABY" at his toy and I'm thinking he may not know who the baby really is… :) 

Likes: He still loves everything that he loved at 10 months, with some new additions. He loves opening and closing doors and cabinets. He even loves closing his own gate- he crawls up the stairs and closes the gate at the top. He likes the bathroom, opening the toilet is also fun as well as the toilet paper roll, and all the cabinets. He loves noodles, mainly the Lo Mein noodles at Chinese restaurants. He loves everything silly

Dislikes: Max still hates getting changed and being in the car when he is tired (but not sleeping). He does not want to sit in a high chair at restaurants. He is definitely a creature of habit and does not love when his routine is messed up particularly at bedtime. Max was also not a huge fan of my rental car I had for the last week and a half while my car was being fixed. I may or may not have told him to hate it...

Eating: Same eating as before: milk 4x per day (3 nursing, 1 pumped bottle while I'm at work), solid food- usually purees, oatmeal, yogurt etc 4x per day. I'm starting to finally let myself believe that we will actually make it to 1 year with nursing (+pumping). That is something I NEVER thought I would say. 

Sleeping: No real change since 10 months. 

Talking: Dada, Daddy, Baby, Mum, P-p-p,  

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Thanks for reading about Max. I'll be back in a few weeks with his ONE YEAR post. What?!

I'll try to be back in the meantime with a few other posts. I want to talk about decluttering and my favorite books of 2014. Hopefully! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Who Stole the Sanity from the Mom-my?

I did not go into motherhood with rose colored glasses, so you may find it surprising when many of my posts about Max (do I write other posts anymore?) are all rainbows and sunshine. Mostly, I have been happily surprised at how many great things Max has brought into my life and how worth it everything else is. 

But, it's not all rainbows and sunshine. So, thanks Nora for inspiring me to write about the hard stuff. The hard stuff for me anyway.  

*But seriously, these are just mine, you may find totally different things hard and easy… or you may never have a kid, that's fine too (smart actually, ha) I'm really just writing these in case the day comes when I think it's a good idea to have another kid. 

Hard #1: 

The repetitive monotony that is a day with a young child. You can tell by my workouts over the years that I love to change things up. Babies, do not love to change things up. They love routine and structure and diaper changes and naps and more diaper changes and more naps, oh and eating, and more eating. Sometimes I feel like if I have to zip another zipper or do another snap, I may cry. (Disclaimer: I zip a lot of zippers at work too, this may contribute to my irrational hatred of zippers…)

Hard #2: 

The battles. No mom, I don't want to nap. No mom, I don't want to put socks on. No mom, I don't want you to change my diaper. No mom, I don't want to wear clothes. Did you hear me, I am NOT taking a nap? No mom, I do not want this toy because Dad's phone charger looks a lot more interesting. I WILL NOT NAP. Who says babies don't talk? 

Hard #3: 

The crazy increase in the amount of chores necessary with a baby. Every day after work I find myself labeling bottles of milk, organizing milk, washing pumping parts, putting them in the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher (which I now have to run almost daily), drying the previous day's pumping parts, packing the next day's pumping parts…and probably more involved in pumping I am forgetting. There is also the endless laundry, which again is okay in theory but folding and putting away tiny clothes gets to be time consuming. A baby just adds so much STUFF to do, other than directly take care of the kid. 

Hard #4: 

So you know how kids like schedule and routine and structure? Yeah, they do. But they don't give a crap about keeping your schedule and routine and structure. In fact, they prefer to alter it as much as possible. Having a kid has tested all of my awesome planning skills I used to have. Current example: I have to study for a test for work. I don't have time to study for a test for work (see above) so I made a whole great plan involving waking up 30 minutes early and studying for the test while working out. I figured that I wouldn't miss that much sleep. But then, guess who decided to start waking up for over an hour in the middle of the right? Oh yea… you guessed it. So now I either lose close to 2 hours of sleep, or enjoy those last 30 minutes. You can imagine what is winning. 

Hard #5: 

Before I had a kid, I was always prepared. I brought snacks everywhere, I always had a sweater in case it got cool. At work, I carried tissues and band aides everywhere. I was on top of it. But babies need ALL. THE. STUFF. Food, bottles, sippy cups, hats, jackets, socks, burp cloths, toys, sleep sacks, blankets, diapers, wipes, strollers, loveys, the list goes on. I never NEVER EVER have all the stuff we need. Ever. Every time we go out it's just a waiting game to see what I forgot and hope it's nothing essential. 

Hard #6: 

Mom Brain. I had hoped that Pregnancy Brain was just a short lived form of torture. But, no such luck. It continues into motherhood. Last week I packed all of Max's food, my pumping stuff and a few other things into a big bag for the Cape. I thought I had Hard #5 MASTERED. Until, I basically stepped right over and said bag, and walked right out the door. Without the bag. Insert emergency trip to the grocery store and Babies R Us. Fast forward 24 hours. I accidentally put Max to bed in just a onesie… no sleep sack, no pants. I didn't notice this until almost 2 hours later when I looked at the video monitor and saw Max's bare legs on the screen… It was seriously freezing out so I had to put on the sleep sack… which woke him up… which lead to crying… which lead to me hating myself. Sigh. 

Some days it's just so obvious to me why they make children cute...

Who me? 

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Yes you...

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Couldn't be...

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Then who?

*Photos by Caroline 

Thanks to "Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar?" for inspiring this post. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Max: Ten Months

It's official, Max has hit the double digits on months old! It feels like 2 seconds ago that he hit double digit weeks. I hope I don't blink and it's double digit years...

Every month Max just becomes more and more aware of all that is going on around him. For example, he totally knows who is familiar to him and will give them a smile when they walk in. He does not have traditional stranger anxiety where he cries with strangers, but he will give someone he doesn't know a more skeptical look. It's kind of like a stare down in which he sits still and just stares at the suspicious person for awhile. It's almost a good strategy for keeping him still for a few minutes. Maybe he doesn't want to reveal of his tricks right away? 

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Max is gaining speed with his mobility. He now crawls at a super fast pace, still with his right leg dragging in order to have immediate access to a sitting position. He loves push toys and walks all over the house with them. He also seems to love the shapes that go with shape sorters. Nothing pisses him off quite like one of his beloved shapes sliding out of reach under the Pack N Play. 

Well actually, the thing that pisses him off the most is having his diaper changed or clothes put on. These two things require staying still which is the last thing he wants to do. He will kick, try to flip over, cry, ANYTHING to not have to stay on that changing table! We have tried out a number of tricks to get him to stay still and they work sometimes and not others. Our tricks include: singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," giving him a toy preferably one that lights up and plays music, counting- he particularly finds it hilarious when Eric counts in French, but any counting will do. 

Max continues to learn at a rapid pace. His recent new skills include: waving hello, giving high fives and drinking with a straw. We have been trying to get him to clap, but with no real luck. He seems to love clapping and gives a big smile when we clap for him. Then, he will grab our hands and make us clap. But doesn't want to clap himself… who knows!?

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He has also started to learn what some words mean. He still really only says "dada" and maybe "baba" and a few other babbling things. But, I think he knows what both "mama" and "dada" mean, as well as "light" and the ever popular "no." I should clarify, just because he understands what "no" means, doesn't exactly mean he always follows it. If I say "no," he will stop and look at me (yay) but then if I don't immediately give him a better alternative, he will happily go right back to what he is not supposed to be doing. His favorite things to do that illicit a "no" from me include pulling the heating vent up, taking the carbon monoxide detector out of the wall (no real danger here because we have safe outlets, but the terrible beeping noise is really just not something anyone wants to hear), and chewing on Eric's phone charger. 

According to my mom, Max displays some element of caution. By this she means that instead of taking the risk of walking on his own, he will squat down, crawl and then pull back up. While I agree he does seem not quite ready to take his first steps (although he is close), he does not show much caution in other areas. His latest favorite thing to do during story time is crawl to the edge of the bed and just DIVE right off. Fortunately, Eric has very quick reaction time and catches him right in the knick of time. Max, of course, finds this to be hilarious. He also likes to take risks in what he eats. We are very lucky that he is willing to try and likes most foods. However, he also happily puts disgusting non food items in his mouth, like the small fuzzy stickers that go on the bottom of our dining room chairs to keep them from scratching the floor. Yuck. 

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We didn't have a doctor's appointment this month, so I can't give an official height and weight, but he seems to be getting heavier every day! Also, I can see a tiny bit of white on his gums so I think he is getting his top two teeth (he already has the bottom too) very soon! 

Likes: music (still), Little Blue Truck and The I Love You book (by Todd Parr), bath time especially playing with the baby soap container, all his toys (especially the shapes, anything that lights up and plays music, and his little office/house that he is borrowing from BFF Teddy, walks especially in the Ergo, Baby Mum Mums, pretty much all food, being silly- hanging upside down, being thrown up in the air, when people look away from him and then look back with a big smile… so many things to love when you are Max

Dislikes: getting his diaper changed, getting changed at all

Eating: We received the go ahead at Max's 9 month appointment to feed Max basically anything (except honey and peanut butter), so Max eats a lot of bites of our food. There is really nothing he doesn't like so far. Just the other day he enjoyed some Chinese Lo Mein noodles. I am sure he will not always be this adventurous, but I'm thankful he is for now! Max continues to nurse 3x per day, get a pumped bottle once a day (though I'm back to pumping twice, blah), and eat 3-4 solid food meals per day, mostly purees. In addition to taking bites of our dinner, he also LOVES puffs and Baby Mum Mums, which are rice crackers that he can eat on his own. He also loves to snack on yogurt melts. Seriously, there is nothing the kid does not like when it comes to food. 

Sleeping: So "Fall Back" happened this month. I just used the opportunity to move Max's bedtime a bit earlier. So he now starts his last nursing session around 7:30, about 30 minutes earlier than before. This has meant an earlier wake up time which has turned out to be helpful in the morning routine. I don't love it on the weekends, but, we can't have everything :) He is still taking 2 naps, the first starts between 8:30-9am, and the second around 1:30pm. They are pretty variable in length, but somewhere between 45 minutes and 90 minutes is the norm. 

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Thanks for reading! :)